April 22, 2005
It was a packed house for opening night of IFFBoston last night, with hipsters lined up around the block at Somerville Theater to see Lonesome Jim and director (and indie-film poster boy) Steve Buscemi in person. Apparently 400 hopeful hipsters didn’t get in. As for me, I walked in and was suddenly surrounded by people I knew and hadn’t seen in awhile. It was definitely a Film Scene night. Blogcards were passed around, screenplays were discussed.
Buscemi was quite charming, and fielded an array of dumb and intelligent questions with a mixture of sarcasm and honesty. (Why is it a rule that the first question asked at these things is always the dumbest?) I admire a man who doesn’t let the dumbness of a question slide. Most interesting was his comment that shooting the film on DV gave him the freedom to not say “cut.” Once a shot is over and the director calls “cut”, the crew starts rushing onto the set and moving things around and screwing up the vibe. So he didn’t ever cut and instead would just keep talking to the actors and moving on to new takes. If he were shooting on film, he said, that kind of approach would be too expensive. It’s an approach that only an actor-director would be likely to take, I’d imagine. Buscemi himself doesn’t act in this film, and didn’t write it, and he sounded as if he now preferred directing to acting. He did also mention John Cassevetes, the pioneer for independent actor’s cinema, and it seems he’s following the Cassavetes career path.
And now, onto the film.
I’m getting tired of watching movies that are merely twentysomething male fantasies written onto the screen. See Garden State. And if you have seen it, you don’t really need to see Lonesome Jim. It’s pretty much the same basic story–some very funny dialogue, but overall your typical depressed-guy-meets-cheery-and-unbelievably-patient-girl-who-saves-him story. Lonesome Jim is a bit darker, and Jim (Casey Affleck) is much less likeable than Zach Braff in Garden State, which makes it even more infuriating that the female lead (Liv Tyler) is inexplicably so in love with this jerk. It’s a wonder men get so frustrated with women who are only attracted to jerks when that’s the same story that’s been fed to us over and over by movies–Hollywood and Indie alike. Let’s see, Jim is 27 and had to move back home with his parents because he couldn’t make enough money walking dogs in New York to live there, where he was trying to be a writer. He steals money from his mother, is cruel and indifferent toward her, tells his brother he’s such a loser he should kill himself (and he then tries), worships only authors who have killed themselves, doesn’t care about anyone or anything, including her, until for some reason near the end he tells her he really likes her (and it’s not believable at all). Yep, that’s my idea of a dream man, how about you, ladies? The sad thing is that most of us have had boyfriends like this in the past, and we continue to be encouraged to do so by films like these, which teach us that if we are just patient and loving enough, the guy will come around. Fuck you. Liv Tyler’s character is a saintly one, of course, works as a nurse in the hospital, talks about how much she likes helping people, pastes a smile over the frown on Jim’s poster of Ernest Hemingway, and has an adorable 5-year-old son to give her the saintly single mother aura. Oh, plus she’s slutty and screws Jim within hours of meeting him. A whore and madonna, all in one, how original!
That said, the sold-out hipster crowd at the screening last night loved the film, and I’m not surprised. It’s written for their demographic. And I do admit to laughing out loud in several places in the film. It is entertaining. First-time screenwriter James Strouse has some writing chops, and I look forward to seeing what he does once he gets past the twentysomething male cliches.